By: Nathan Jamerson
Kinsey Brooks, a sophomore nursing major and athlete on the women’s swim team, will be competing in the NCAA Division III National Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., from March 16 to 19. She’s set to compete in three events: the 200-yard individual medley, in which she’s seeded third, as well as the 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke. If successful, Brooks will be the Eagles’ first female individual national champion in swimming since Shannon Hutcherson in 1993.
While her team’s season is over after winning the Metro Swimming Conference Championship in Camden, N.J., Brooks is still training for the national championships.
“As I prepare to compete in the NCAA Division III National Championships, I try to keep an open mind and keep as positive as possible,” she said. “It has been hard training by myself, but I have had some amazing teammates and coaching to cheer me along through tough practices. The best advice I was given was by alumni Anthony Pederson: swim fast, have fun. That is what my goal is going into this meet.”
Brooks’s swimming career first started in her early childhood when she joined a summer league in Lake St. Louis, Mo. She joined a year-round team when she was 8 years old, initially just hoping to have fun with her friends.
“It was when I moved to Virginia when I was 10 that I decided to be more dedicated with my swimming,” she said. “My parents always believed that every kid should be able to swim in case of an emergency, but they never imagined that 15 years later I would be on a collegiate team, nevertheless going to NCAAs.”
Brooks struggled with breaststroke the most growing up, but now she’ll be competing it at nationals.
“Growing up, my worst stroke was breaststroke and now I have to say it is my favorite by far,” she said. “It is just a very technical stroke, and I enjoy that every day my breaststroke can feel and be different.”
Throughout her time swimming at UMW, Brooks said she’s made a lot of new friends, and she uses the encouraging words from her teammates and coaches to always do her best.
“Coach Anderson has always been encouraging and pushes me each time to do my best even in the toughest times,” she said.
Justin Anderson, the head coach of the men’s and women’s swim teams, is complimentary of Brooks as well.
“Kinsey has been a hugely impactful swimmer for our team this year,” said Anderson. “Besides winning her three individual events at our conference championship, she contributed to two first place relay finishes. She also broke three team records and five rookie records.”
Brooks’s teammates also recognize her skill and determination.
“Kinsey is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met,” said senior business administration major, Kolin Hoffman. “But it’s her hard work and dedication that have gotten her to this point.”
Brooks has dominated since joining the team last year. She placed first in eight individual races across the three-day Franklin and Marshall College Invitational, where she swam a 2:03.50 in the individual medley, breaking both the meet and UMW records for the event.
Brooks is coming off a strong performance at the Metro Collegiate Swimming Conference, where the women’s swim team won the conference championship. In addition to achieving multiple best times, Brooks was awarded both Female Rookie of the Meet and Female Swimmer of the Meet.
“I am more than happy with how I did,” Brooks said. “Swimming in those big meets can be very stressful, but nothing beats the reward we got as a team by bringing home the championship title for the women’s team.”
According to Anderson, Brooks has been preparing by “honing in on her top events and focusing on areas she can improve in those races.” In the week before the championships, Anderson said “we’re starting to take it easier in practice so she is well rested and will be able to physically perform at the highest level she can at NCAAs.”
Brooks offered advice for other swimmers looking to qualify for the NCAA championships in the future.
“Having a good mentality and trusting the process is the biggest thing, keeping your stress levels low and just having fun,” she said. “Racing at NCAAs is the fun part because you’ve already put in all the work to get there.”